Francis Alÿs Will Unveil New Work at the Iraqi Pavilion at Venice Biennale

It’s the result of several expeditions to the country, including the Mosul frontline.

The artist Francis Alÿs in Iraq. Photo ©Akam Shex Hadi, courtesy Ruya Foundation.

The Ruya Foundation, the organization behind the pavilion of Iraq at the Venice Biennale, has released details regarding the exhibition that will be presented at the 57th Venice Biennale, which opens in May 2017.

Under the title “Archaic,” the exhibition will gather works by eight Modern and contemporary Iraqi artists, placed in dialogue with ancient artifacts. The display will be accompanied by a new commission by the artist Francis Alÿs, who held art workshops at an Iraqi refugee camp earlier this year, as part of a Ruya Foundation program that also saw Ai Weiwei engage with local refugees the previous year.

Alÿs’s new work will explore the themes of nomadism and the artist’s work in times of war. Besides the art workshops held at the refugee camps in northern Iraq, this past October Alÿs returned to the country as part of an expedition in which he was embedded with a Kurdish battalion on the Mosul frontline during the ongoing campaign to liberate Mosul.

The exhibition will be curated by Tamara Chalabi, chair and co-founder of the Ruya Foundation, and Paolo Colombo, art adviser at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. The show will explore the concept of the archaic, referring to both ancient cultural heritage and fragile contemporary political entities.

“We are thrilled with Francis Alÿs’s participation, which will complete the exhibition’s exploration of the archaic in the context of Iraq,” Chalabi and Colombo said in a joint statement. “Given his many poetic and provocative interventions, Alÿs is best placed to explore the role of the artist at the frontline of war, which is what he has been doing in Iraq.”

The contemporary Iraqi artists who will be featured in the exhibition are Luay Fadhil, Sherko Abbas, Sakar Sleman, Ali Arkady, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, and Nadine Hattom. Meanwhile, the two Modern artists in the show are Jawad Salim and Shaker Hassan Al Said.

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